Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
“Russ’s dad spoke a little premature,” Pitino told ESPNU on Thursday. “Russ is about 60/40 staying.”
Pitino said he emailed “all the [NBA] Player Personnel directors and said, ‘Look, I need help on this one. If you drafted Russ Smith in the second round, would you send him to the D-League? Would you keep him? Would you develop him? I need some insight on what you think he needs to improve to be a first-rounder.
“Do you think he can be a first-rounder?’ And I’m waiting to get their input back. So far I’ve got two. I sent it on to Russ as I got it and I emailed 30 teams.
“I personally think he would benefit by staying because he improved. As a freshman he was an erratic player, totally out of control. As a sophomore, he was an up-and-down player, totally committed to learning how to play the game. And this year he was brilliant.
“So he can only get better by staying. He’s 165 pounds, I’d like to get him up to 180. Very good athlete. If it wasn’t for Russ Smith we don’t go to a Final Four last year and we don’t win a championship this year.”
If Smith — a Brooklyn native who shot 3-for-16 in Monday’s national championship game win over Michigan — does return to the defending national champions, he would join with junior college point guard Chris Jones in the backcourt with Peyton Siva graduating.
“Chris Jones is as fine a point guard as I’ve recruited since I’ve been in this game,” Pitino said.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.